Creating Cotehele's Christmas garland

Every November gardeners and volunteers at Cotehele in Cornwall create a 60ft-long Christmas garland using thousands of flowers grown on the estate. The giant swag – the longest made at any of the places we look after – hangs in the Great Hall throughout the festive season.

Cotehele’s annual Christmas garland is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year in 2021 since the tradition to adorn the Great Hall began in 1956. It will be marking the occasion by recreating the design of early garlands which had a more traditional, greenery-inspired look. The team are turning back the clock to recreate a historic photograph of one of the earliest garlands that was taken in the 1980s. 

The garland hangs in the Great Hall from late November 2021 until the start of January 2022.

The Christmas garland in the Great Hall at Cotehele, Cornwall
The Christmas garland in the Great Hall at Cotehele, Cornwall
The Christmas garland in the Great Hall at Cotehele, Cornwall

A unique display year-on-year

Each year the team at Cotehele spend 11 months planning and growing the garland. However, due to the impact of Covid 19 and subsequent Government guidelines and restrictions, plans had to be adjusted as there was a lot less time available for planting and growing the usual 30,000 flowers the team needed for the usual display. So this year hundreds of sprigs of pittisporum will be used and fewer dried flowers than previous years, creating an impressive natural look.

In early November, Cotehele volunteers and gardeners bring in the Christmas garland ready to decorate
In early November, Cotehele volunteers and gardeners bring in the Christmas garland ready to decorate
In early November, Cotehele volunteers and gardeners bring in the Christmas garland ready to decorate

In early November the gardeners start with a 60ft-long (or even longer) piece of rope, which serves as the core and is designed to drape twice in the 44ft-long hall. They attach the small bunches of pittosporum to the rope with potato metal wire sack ties, incrementally covering the entire rope. This gives the framework to which they will add the dried flowers.

 

Putting the garland together

Creating the garland is a task which involves team work and Cotehele’s gardeners and volunteers use scaffolding to add flowers into the growing festive display.

Constructing the garland takes about 10 days including gathering and preparing the pittosporum (the foliage), but there are many more hours planning. The total number of hours spent preparing for and making the garland roughly equates to one full-time person every year.

Volunteer gardener preparing flowers for the Cotehele Christmas garland in a previous year
Volunteer gardener sits amongst the flowers for the Cotehele Christmas garland
Volunteer gardener preparing flowers for the Cotehele Christmas garland in a previous year

Dave Bouch, Head Gardener at Cotehele said ‘A garland has always featured at Cotehele since the first was created in 1956. Since then, more and more flowers kept being added to the design each year. This year we’re taking this opportunity to step back and reflect on how this tradition started by recreating an early photograph of the garland. From a time when it was a more modest design and inspired by the decorative greenery and kissing boughs that the Tudors brough into their homes in winter.’

An archive photo of Cotehele's garland from 1981
An archive photo of Cotehele's garland from 1981
An archive photo of Cotehele's garland from 1981

 

" If you’ve not seen the garland at Cotehele, you must. A visit to the garland will undoubtedly become one of your family’s annual Christmas traditions."
- Dave Bouch, Head Gardener, Cotehele
Watch the garland being made
Video

Creating Cotehele's Christmas garland

Watch our video from a previous year to relive how staff and volunteers put together the Christmas Garland at Cotehele.